September 26, 2005

Namibia FlagToday was a rest day, with no activities scheduled. But nevertheless we got up about 8 am and went over to the breakfast room. The selections were basically the same at this Drifters Inn as they were at the one in Cape Town, but here they would make eggs and bacon for you individually. After a leisurely breakfast we put out some dirty clothes to be laundered, then off we went exploring.

Downtown was only a few streets down from the Drifters Inn, so it only took about ten minutes to walk there. Swakopmund is very German in architecture; many of the buildings were constructed by German settlers in the early 1900’s. Our first stop was at an internet café, where we checked our e-mail and sent off a generic e-mail message to everyone, letting them know we were still alive.

Most of the souvenir shops and other tourist services were located in a small area around Sam Nujoma Street (formerly Kaiser Wilhelm Strasse), so it was easy to go through them. Very quickly we came to the Karakulia Weavers store which Rosemary had researched on the internet before we left home. They had a variety of lovely rugs, wall hangings, and smaller pieces that they make in their own factory. All of them are on Namibian themes: animals, landscapes, legends, and so on. The woman in the shop told us that there was a better selection at the factory.

The factory was at the north end of town, not far from the Drifters Inn, so we decided to walk there and have a look. Once there we were given a tour by Moses, who described the whole process to us. We saw how they carded and spun and dyed and dried the wool, then we saw people weaving the rugs. Most of them worked from patterns, making rugs in the catalogue, but others were producing custom orders or their own designs. The weavers are in a cooperative so all proceeds benefit them directly.

We finally settled on a nice carpet with a design featuring guinea fowl. Moses said that they shipped 80% of their orders by mail, so we opted for that too. It would be a lot easier than carrying the carpet all around Africa. It also meant we avoided paying the 15% VAT, which just about paid for the shipping and insurance charges.

Once this purchase was done, we headed back to town to check out the other shops. On the way we stopped at the open-air market and were urged by all the vendors to buy something. In the end we bought a woven platter and a small basket for N$80. The woman said she had woven both items, and that might have been the case.

Before lunch we visited the Swakopmund Museum. It had a lot of interesting historical artifacts, then more then we wanted to know about uranium mining, then the obligatory stuffed birds and animals. Just as we finished looking around, the bell rang to signal that the museum was closing for lunch.

Neither of us was particularly hungry, so we decided to buy a bun and some Fanta from a supermarket. We walked down to the beach and sat on a bench eating. The seagulls were most annoyed that we didn’t share with them! Out in the water was a Cape Cross seal swimming around in the surf. We walked down the beach to where the map on Drifters’ wall showed pelicans, but we couldn’t figure out how to get to the mouth of the river, so in the end we turned around and headed back. Along the way we stopped in a few more souvenir shops, and Rosemary bought a couple of bracelets made by the Himba people of northern Namibia. As we walked back to the Inn, four pelicans flew over.

We spent a couple of hours relaxing in the room, then about 5 pm we walked back to use the internet again. It would be 8 am back home, so we might be able to talk to the kids on MSN Messenger. We had trouble getting Messenger started, even with the help of the proprietor, because the previous users had changed so that all the menus were in Dutch. But we eventually got that sorted out and had a chat with Caroline. She told us she had an interview on October 17 with a corporate law firm for a potential job next summer.

Our group dinner was braai cooked in the hotel fire pit: barbecued lamb, beef sausage, garlic, boiled potatoes, and salad. And Christian had gone fishing and caught some fish (Leon said they were kabeljou), so we had them as appetizers. After dinner we sat around the fire and chatted until about 11 pm.

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